top of page
  • Anna Brix Thomsen

John Taylor Gatto: Blowing the Whistle on the Education System. 85

One of the most important voices of progressive education, John Taylor Gatto exposes in several of his books, articles and interviews the undercurrents that steer the direction of the current education system. These undercurrents within our education systems are most prominently exposed by Gatto through his exposé of Alexander Inglis’s book Principles of Secondary Education. In this book from 1918, Inglis lists the six primary functions of education and Gatto takes these as his critical point of departure and writes:

“Inglis breaks down the purpose – the actual purpose – of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier: 1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can’t test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things. 2) The integrating function. This might well be called “the conformity function,” because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force. 3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in “your permanent record.” Yes, you do have one. 4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best. 5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin’s theory of natural selection as applied to what he called “the favored races.” In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments – clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That’s what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain. 6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.” Source:

As can be seen from Gatto’s deduction of Ingles list of primary functions of education, the base premise is to maintain and manage the status quo of the market oriented society and within that the segregation of citizens into manageable consumer groups.

Besides the obvious alarming consequences of creating an education system based on a cynical perspective on human beings, there is another dimension of this that I would like to open up here:

Having a look at the these six purposes of schooling that are saturated into the fibers of our education systems, it is noteworthy that none of them are openly written into the school policies or curricular. Instead we have elegantly written goals and principles that honor ‘equality’, ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, ‘democracy’, ‘independence’ and ‘life long learning’. These are some of the key words used in schools all over the Western world to assiduously and innocuously make us into better human beings who will grow up to make the world a better place.

On a daily basis I see and speak to students, students who are tired, students who are exhausted, bored and fearful when it comes to their education and their future. They know that they must go to school to learn for the sake of learning but are taught from an early age to not ask too many questions, that ‘things are the way they are’ and most importantly; that there are no viable alternatives to the current societal structure. They learn through ethnocentric course material that their culture is superior to other cultures and those words like ‘terrorist’ is synonym with Arabic sounding names. In fact, the stark inversion between the apparent principles that schools are supposed to teach and the actuality of life for children in schools reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984 where words were reversed and twisted to coax the population into obedience. As it may be when one is living on a lie, one has to be assiduous in one’s efforts to maintain the illusion that the lie is truth.

For the students however, who were born with brains and bodies not yet washed with the sweet smelling but ever toxic detergent that is the current education system, it is not as easy as simply jumping on the bandwagon and happily drink the cool-aid, at least not the younger ones. They are prompted to learn about the importance of democracy in a system that is anything but democratic. They are told to accept and include each other on the playground while being bombarded with images and music that tell them they must compete and stand out to be good enough. That is how they are differentiated and segregated and they know it so buying the newest toy or music album or clothing item becomes a matter of life or death for them.

What John Taylor Gatto saw based on decades of working in the American education system was the strategically placed undercurrent as a certain way of viewing human beings as assets insofar as their usability for the economic markets. It is no wonder because after all, we have long ago signed away our ‘souls’ to the devil that is the current economic system. More wanted more and we were willing to pay any price to get it, even risking the future of all mankind and the earth in the process.

The fact that politicians, market economists, financial tycoons and education policy-makers are operating with two different agendas when it comes to education is remarkably revealing. Imagine for a moment a society where everyone knew the actual purposes of schooling. We would not be able to claim to live in a democratic society. In fact, we would live in an openly fascistic and totalitarian society, not unlike Orwell’s nightmare vision in 1984. What happens in such societies is that the citizens eventually revolt. We saw it in the French revolution, in Chile, in Venezuela and all around the world, obviously never with an outcome that actually changed anything for the better.

The system that we are living in now, where citizens are reduced to consumers whose lives are indebted to corporations, is ‘perfect’ from the perspective that a full measure of control is maintained. People are either ‘blissfully’ unaware as they are caught up in the ‘neon lights’ of entertainment, or exist in a perpetual state of petrification leaving them no room to do anything but survive. It is an effective system because people are left disoriented by the sheer amount of cognitive disinformation fed to them on a daily basis. This begins by brutally breaking children down before they have even had a chance to develop themselves. It is like breaking the wings of a baby bird only to have it gratefully accept a place in the cage because it would otherwise not have survived.

In The Purpose of Schooling, John Taylor Gatto condenses the functions of education into the following five dogmas:

Truth comes from Authority

Intelligence is the ability to remember and repeat

Accurate memory and repetition are rewarded

Non-compliance is punished

As a solution to subverting the dumbing down of our children and the subsequent destruction of our planet, let’s have a look at reversing these dogmas into practical living principles that will teach children on a real and fundamental level to become adults who will take on the guardianship of this earth with humbleness and compassion.

  1. In our search for truth in this world, all we seem to find is more lies. As such what is required is stop focusing on truth and within that teach children to live on a lie and to instead teach children the necessary deductive skills to asses information critically, equally and within common sense. To do that they obviously need to be able to read and write, eventually at such an advanced level that no literature or document is beyond their comprehension. Segregating people through language proficiency levels and the extent of vocabulary is one of the most effective ways to ensure the acceptance of inequality. Through this principle of teaching all children to asses information at an equal level, they will be encouraged to be sovereign and thus empowered in such a way that they can make decisions that are not only best for them, but for all living beings.

  2. Intelligence must be measured based on the degree to which it contributes with ensuring a world that is best for all. It is really as simple as that. There is nothing ‘intelligent’ about inventing technologies that has no other purpose than to destroy our habitat.

  3. Education ought to be self-rewarding in the sense that we as individuals should be able to evaluate ourselves and accordingly measure our development within a particular learning process, so as to see where improvement is possible. In the current system rewards and punishment are used interchangeably to create compliant and fearful people that spite and ridicule each other. Again, if we measure intelligence according to which it contributes to a world that is best for all, this will then also be the reward of each individual’s efforts: to contribute to the creation of a world that is best for all and so for oneself. That is real value.

  4. The problem with compliance is that it relies on followers that are complying out of fear. They are never making self-willed decisions and as such they will not take responsibility as co-creators of a business or a society. Instead they are merely following the scripts that are placed before them, while making no independent effort to optimize production processes or working conditions. The result of this is a faulty system where truck drivers fall asleep at the wheel and where doctors accidentally kill patients and where no one really puts any effort into anything they do, because after all: “I just work here.” Furthermore, having people comply out of fear always proposes the risk that they will eventually revolt in some way or another or at least carry a deep-seated blame causing them to never fully commit or give the system their all. For this world to thrive it is imperative that we as human beings become responsible, not only for our own lives, but for the world as a whole. This is our home and if we do not take responsibility for it, no one will. When each stand responsible for themselves and for the whole, they will have an ownership in what they do and thus an interest in the success of all involved. The work of each individual will therefore become valuable in a completely new way where it will not be necessary to use fear to motivate people because each will understand their value and as such be self-motivated.

  5. Forcing people to conform to a system that was built to be broken, as Richard Grove from Tragedy and Hope puts it, simply creates nothing but broken people. Broken people makes broken world which eventually will lead to the demise of all of us with animals and nature standing on the front lines as the canon fodder. So instead of wanting children to conform, we must assist them to transform, so that when they grow up, they do not make the same mistakes we did. To do that we have to transform ourselves, because we obviously cannot teach children anything that we ourselves have not yet learned.

While John Taylor Gatto spent decades teaching children in remarkable and provocative ways, his books and articles and interviews are equally rich sources of information that we as adults can utilize to transform ourselves and reverse the conformity that has already been stuffed down our throats. There are many other authors and pioneers through which we can initiate the re-education process of ourselves to become sovereign human beings that can stand as solid examples for the children entering this world. But the responsibility is and can only be our own. What is so fortunate about this day and age is that all information is virtually accessible through the Internet. All that is then required is critical skills of discernment to circumvent the cognitive disinformation and actually get to the real information about what is happening in this world. We do that through expanding our vocabulary, through cross-referencing what we find with others, through being relentless unveiling ourselves from seeing what is really going on.

In a way it is quite simple; we have to stop living on a lie. But as someone once said, self-honesty is the most difficult thing in the world because it forces us to take responsibility for who we have become and within that we have to let go of the wonderful world of illusion that we’ve created through the lie. The question is: can we afford to keep lying to ourselves when the world is falling apart around us, and at what price?

If you are ready to get involved and get moving I suggest investigating the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:


Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century

The Story of Your Enslavement

On Advertisement and the end of the world:

Third World America – Chris Hedges

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order:


3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Deschooling Humanity to Save the World. 119

“Institutional wisdom tells us that children need school. Institutional wisdom tells us that children learn in school. But this institutional wisdom is itself the product of schools because sound comm


bottom of page